PHOTO: Guests give a standing ovation to the late Charles Sargent during the Voices for Children fundraiser Thursday evening in Franklin. / Photo by Alexander Willis
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘it’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
Such are the words of Fred Rogers, best known from the children’s educational program Mister Rogers, that the nonprofit organization CASA lives by, and exemplified Thursday night during its Voices of Children fundraiser in Franklin.
Shorthand for Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA is a national nonprofit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children, and has volunteers and staff members assigned to troubled youth throughout the country acting as personal counselors and representatives of children through the juvenile court system.
Held at the Graystone Quarry venue in south Franklin, the Williamson County arm of CASA saw its fundraiser completely fill out the venue, selling every available ticket to the event.
“I am humbled, I’m grateful when I see so many people in our community come out to support CASA,” said Marianne Schroer, Williamson County CASA executive director. “The more children that come into the system, the more cases we’re appointed to; the more advocates we need, the more staff we need, the bigger office that we need – but we don’t have any more money coming in, so events like this are critical.”
With more than 200 guests, the event raised over $130,000 through donations, gifts, as well as through its live and silent auctions.
Items sold during the auctions included two VIP tickets to a concert in Las Vegas for the iconic singer Cher, sold for $3,000, a collage of memorabilia from the Beatles, sold for $1,400, a house party featuring upcoming country artist Adam Doleac, sold for $4,200, and lastly, a jersey of Nashville Predators’ defenceman Roman Josi, sold for $1,300.
After guests had their fill of dinner and drinks, Schroer took the stage and thanked someone who had been a major benefactor to Williamson County’s arm of CASA – the late State Representative Charles Sargent.
Sargent, who served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1997 until his passing in 2018, had been responsible for thousands of dollars going towards CASA, and personally served as a board member for CASA.
Sargent’s wife of 41 years, Nancy Sargent, was present at the fundraiser, and was asked to join Schroer on stage and accept an award on his behalf. Fighting through tears, Nancy thanked Schroer, and embraced her after accepting the award.
Schroer praised Sargent for his generosity, but also shared a reminder that for CASA to continue its mission of helping distraught children, it needs helping hands of all kinds.
“Our CASA advocates are all volunteers – we have about 85 now – and they see that child through a really difficult time when they come into the juvenile court system,” Schroer said. “We have made a commitment that no child who needs a CASA in Williamson County will not have one. We want people to know that there’s a problem, we want people to know that CASA exists and what we do, but we also need financial help in order to keep doing what we do.”